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Personal Blog

ZPE's implementation of by reference variables was a tricky one since the underlying Java does not give access to such a powerful tool.

Since version 1.7.0 Reindeer Lake, which was officially released yesterday, ZPE has supported by reference variables and will continue to make them more powerful. As these are new, there is currently no documentation on them. I will add some soon. In the meantime, I thought it might be a good idea to use my blog to explain these in more detail.

ZPE/YASS by reference is achieved with a ZPEVariableReference object which points to an actual ZPEVariable. Changes can be made to overwrite these in functions or to overwrite just their value. A change to the value will change the original value. Let's see it with code:

YASS
function main()
 
  $y = 5
  j(&$y)
  print($y)

end function

function j($y)

  $v = $y + 10  
  print($v)

  &$y = 10  
  print(&$y)

end function

Notice the changes between using &$ and just $. If using the $ syntax in an assignment, it will destroy the reference. Also note, the parameter name is still just $y, even though it contains a pointer. To access the parameter $y as though it were a pointer, it is simple enough to just put an & in front of it as shown on line 14.

That's all there is to ZPE by reference variables so far. I will continue to improve them over the next few versions so keep an eye out!

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1.7.0
1.7.1

So for a while, I have been contemplating a new computer. I originally considered a new Intel-based computer right up until the day I was going to order it in the form of an Intel Core i7 8086 - a limited edition version of the Core i7 8700K. But something had been annoying me for a while. The Ryzen that was almost 150 pounds cheaper was offering 8 cores as opposed to Intel's six. Better still, the Ryzen 2700 that I was always considering has a TDP of just 65W as opposed to 95W and uses 12nm fabrication technology compared with 14nm. On top of that, the Ryzen 2 range was only released in October of 2018, compared with Intel's that was over a year ago.

Intel's i7 9700K - their 9th Generation Core i7, has moved to have 8 cores at the same price, the catch is though, it drops Hyper Threading, so it only has 8 threads - the first time a Core i7 has not featured this technology. This has been reserved for the high-end Core i9. I was very saddened to see this, but the reasoning behind it is because Intel is still struggling to fabricate the 10nm FINFET transistors needed for the next tick in their tick-tock cycle and the only way to make a difference was to add more physical cores (and as a result drop the logical cores added by Hyper Threading).

All in all, that meant that the Ryzen 2700 seemed more suitable than any Intel available. So my decision was made when the 8086 went back up in price as the sale ended. I did a bit more research into the AMD alternative and I could get better RAM and higher performance RAM and still be about £70 cheaper than the Intel equivalent. 

So I am happy to say, that for the first time since 2007, I have purchased an AMD CPU. And I am proud to have done this because it took a lot of guts for me to do this. I was quite drawn in by the fact I may have owned a limited edition CPU and I was always drawn to Intel over AMD, but today I went ahead and broke out of that brand loyalty thing I have and said I'm going for an AMD!

I give you, the Red Revolution.

The Red Revolution replaces my Zebra X2, and also changes my nomenclature for my PCs. Now, rather than taking the names of animals and the first letter of the motherboard model, I am using the name of the CPU. The CPU, being a Ryzen, inspires red across the design, the GPU, my Radeon 7950 is also red, and despite everything about going for an Nvidia, will be replaced by a Radeon again due to the cheaper price and performance per dollar.

The Red Revolution is my first PC to be designed from the bottom up - that is that I have chosen each part from a design perspective (well performance was the first consideration, but design came next). I've never owned a PC that was made to look this beautiful either. With a red theme, the Revolution is, to date, my most attractive machine. Further to that, the refresh that the Revolution brings will allow me to replace my very old hard disk drives with much faster SSDs for my games. More space was one of the biggest considerations when choosing the chassis for my new machine and I didn't cut any corners when selecting my case. The Corsair 780T which replaces my old Corsair 600T has loads of room inside it (the 600T had plenty of room too, but not quite as much).

Although I originally just purchased a single 8GB strip of DDR4 memory, it is my intention to upgrade it to 16GB in the next week or so. After that it will also be possible to upgrade the system to 32GB if need be.

Only a few components remain from the previous Zebra X2, including my PSU which has been in every computer I have built since 2009 and first was added in the original Platypus now which makes it 10 years old now. My oldest hard disks were bought in 2005 and 2007 and are still running.

Below are some pictures of my finished build:

Posted by J B Balfour in PC Modding
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amd
ryzen
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psu

Over 2018, ZPE has improved more than ever. Here is just a sample of the new language features brought through the year 2018:

  • Performance is better than ever.
  • The syntax is cleaner than ever.
  • Its name is now a recursive acronym and much easier to say.
  • It's more object-oriented than ever before. Object inheritance was added. Objects performance has been improved.
  • TYPO was finally brought to the language.
  • Native methods for objects were brought to the language.
  • Error objects were added.
  • Pre-increment and pre-decrement syntaxes were changes to be in line with other languages such as PHP - this was one of the most requested features back in the early days of ZPE. 
  • A new FOR LOOP, the FOR EACH IN LOOP was added.
  • The circumflex (^) for representing the power value, e.g. 5^2 is now part of the syntax
  • More syntactic sugar was added to the compiler, such as the IF...THEN statements. The fat arrow syntax for lambda functions was added. elseif can now be written as else if as well.
  • Value caching with the cache_value and read_cache allow programs to save information for later.
  • If statements can have values assigned within them. E.g. if(($v = 10) == 10) 
  • Python-style fixed arrays have now been added
  • The interactive interpreter has been improved by miles - it performs better and doesn't stop when it has an error.
  • Further refinement to 'everything is a function' strategy where the whole program runs within a function has been furthered.
  • The internal updater has now been added

What's still left for development in 2019 then? Well, the answer is that there is a ton of stuff still to be done. For a start, I'd like to improve the performance of the LAMP parser considerably. There is definitely scope for improvement there. It will be a drop in replacement for the current LAMP parser too since the LAMP parser implements the ZPELAMP interface.

ZPE will also get the automatic update feature brought to it, so it will inform users when there is an update. The GUI object is also going to be one of the main focuses for the next version of ZPE. As well as that, ZPE will move further to becoming an object-oriented language by furthering the number of object-based methods within the language. 2018 also added a Python transpiler, I will continue to work on that and hopefully finish that.

What happened to ZPE 2.0?

ZPE 2.0, the C++ compiler, interpreter and runtime that was designed to replace ZPE 1.x was going to take too long to develop and I'm quite happy to work on ZPE 1.x for now as my main project. In the future I will possibly continue to work on ZPE 2.0 again.

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2018
january
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A long-awaited feature in the ZPE was the request for an updater built-in to the interpreter and parser. So now with ZPE 1.6.8.1 you can, although a minor update, it is actually a big update for it.

This is a long awaited feature and it's very easy to do. ZPE 1.6.8.1 is now also available to download from my website as of today. To run the update, simply type:

zpe --update

By reference-style variables have yet to be fully implemented and are partially implemented in ZPE 1.6.8.x. They've been disabled within the release versions.

With 2019 just around the corner, ZPE 1.7.0 is also just about ready to be started and readied for release. ZPE 1.7.0 is bringing some performance improvements and one or two new syntax features that aim to make ZPE even better. ZPE 1.7.0 will also bring an automatic updater, expanding on what ZPE 1.6.8.1 brought. Unfortunately, ZPE 1.6.9 which I had hoped to bring out before the end of the year, has been scraped due to the lack of time.

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First off, as a result of this new discovery, I have updated Girder and BalfBar.

I have recently been working on a new client website when I discovered what I'd say was glitch. This affects every website, every thing that I have worked on in the past few years and all my major projects and it's now fixed.

Every website I have ever created has been responsive since about 2012. As a result CSS media queries are a big thing in the design of these sites. However, it only came to me today that the way that these media queries work is not brilliant. Most crucially, this affected Girder and BalfBar on any website, but also affected my own website. Let's take a look at what this is.

The media gap

The two main methods of using media queries is using the min and max queries:

  • @media only screen and (max-width: 768px)
  • @media only screen and (min-width: 769px)

Combine these two queries to have a media query for mobile devices and a media query for desktop devices. All fine there. Except, there's a gap. If you can already see it then great, but if not let me explain.

First off, take a look at this graph. This what our media query would look like: left of the red bar is the mobile section and anything to the right of the red bar would be our desktop portion. But what about the red bar itself? This is where we have the issue, albeit a small issue, a complex issue to deal with at first.

It only struck me this afternoon that there are small gaps in the media queries developed for production that cause issues with this. The media queries do not specify what happens for the infinitely many real numbers that come between 768 and 769 such as 768.1, 768.2 or 768.35.

An important thing to note is that these media query issues only occur if there are two media queries back to back - one min and one max. Another thing to note is that > 768 and >= 769 are not the same here - this bit is key. This causes issues with things where the JavaScript and CSS are trying to achieve something at the same time.

A fix

A small fix I would suggest is adding granularity. For this example, a fix could be achieved with:

  • @media only screen and (max-width: 768px)
  • @media only screen and (min-width: 768.01px)

Another fix is to use just one media query here and stack changes in it. For instance, develop the mobile site then have a single min-width media query for all the changes applied to the desktop site. This is not ideal but it works and there's no need for the granularity with this type of query.

Why is this an issue?

The issue occurs with some browsers (such as Firefox) making some websites 767.200 pixels wide as opposed to a rounded number. There needs to be a better way to fix this issue.

Posted by J B Balfour in Web design
css
media
queries
issues
size
width
height
max
min

Version 1.3 of BalfBar is now available to download and brings a general set of improvements and new features. I'm still working on the tidy up of BalfBar as a major project but that's for another update still to come which I'm looking forward to 🤪 . The joys of being a software developer all over again 😂.

The new version of BalfBar brings in a new kind of menu which is known as the mobile pushmenu. You can see this below:

As you can see, this pushes the whole document across to the right. At present, much like the sidebar, it only comes from the left hand side.

Posted by J B Balfour in BalfBar
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pushmenu
version
1.3

Recently after an amount of thought, I have decided to finally make the switch from a sans font to a serif font. I am keeping the Roboto font on my website for things like the site links and masthead, but for the content, I have finally made the switch to Roboto Slab.

This is not necessarily going to stay, the thoughts of the readers and viewers are what determines what I do on my website, and whilst some have already expressed that they preferred the sans font, I am on the mindset that a serif font can also do the job well here.

I will revert this if the survey results do not show that people think this works well on my website.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
sans
serif
font
roboto
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website

I mentioned the other day that I would be updating Dash with the removal of Google Plus in the next few days. I will be doing this today, as well as improving several other dashboard features. I'm specifically interested in getting the poll system started so that you will be able to create polls - connecting them to posts and then accepting user input from them will come later.

Suggestions are greatly welcomed too, so if you've got an idea, use the contact form on my website to let me know what you think I could do to improve Dash.

dash
update
google
plus

ZPE has very recently made objects a staple part of the language. But did you know that all variables within an object are actually references? What I mean is that if you change a variable (property) within an object in ZPE it will actually update the object.

YASS
$o = {$x : 10}
//Will print 10
print($o->$x)
$o->$x = 50
//Will print 50
print($o->$x)

So what does this mean and just how can it be brought further into ZPE? Well this exact concept will be used in ZPE 1.6.8 (December 2018) to bring forward by reference variables. These variables have sort of existed since some version 1.5.x but have found very little use. They work on a different system to ordinary variables however and a system of trust between the function itself returning what is necessary.

Whether or not ZPE 1.6.8 completely adds support for by reference or not is dependent on how much I manage to get done with regards to it, but I can say for a fact that it will be very useful as both a learning tool and as a feature of the language when it is done.

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1.6.8
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reference

The announcement by Google that Google+ will finally being getting shutdown is music to some peoples' ears - certainly to mine. But it also means a bit of work for me as Dash had added some integration with Google+. If you are using this integration, please be aware that by the end of the next version release cycle, Dash will remove this feature.

The next version of Dash will hopefully be out in December of this year.

google
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dash